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Mission Corner

Posted by Cherreka Montgomery, National Vice President for Corporate Development, SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), July 1, 2014

Why protecting your network is more important now than ever before

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, May 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, May 19, 2014. Holder announced that a U.S. grand jury has charged five Chinese hackers with economic espionage and trade secret theft, the first-of-its-kind criminal charges against Chinese military officials in an international cyber-espionage case. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

When it comes to data breaches, Edward Snowden may be on everyone's mind—but he's not the only threat organizations face in the information age.

Rogue actors and adversaries are using new tactics to infiltrate government entities and private firms. And the implications are dire.

Snowden's leak of documents related to the surveillance activities of the National Security Administration contained much more than the details of how the U.S. government kept tabs on persons of interest. The leaks reportedly included information on American national security tactics, technology and operational capabilities, as well as weapons system data.

The Justice Department has accused employees of the Chinese military of launching cyber attacks on U.S. business interests. Attorney General Eric Holder's May 19 announcement of indictments against those individuals was the first time the U.S. publicly accused a foreign power of cybercrimes against domestic firms.

Businesses such as U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse Electric Co. and Alcoa Inc. were named among the victims. And there were subsequent reports that China's hacking abilities extend far wider and deeper than the indictment reflects.

A recent comprehensive review of global digital security conducted by Verizon unearthed the vulnerabilities private and public organizations face each day. According to the report, "We have more incidents, more sources, and more variation than ever before—and trying to approach tens of thousands of incidents using the same techniques simply won't cut it."

"I think that the raw numbers are actually quite high for things like Web-based attacks and espionage as well," explained Jay Jacobs, a co-author of the Verizon report, to NextGov.

A majority of data breaches are the result of manual security processes and policies that are difficult to enforce. In Snowden's case, he used contraband thumb drives to carry documents out of the NSA, and was only "loosely supervised."

All this unfolds as the nascent U.S. Cyber Command pushes for greater focus on cyber defenses. Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the unit's commander, said May 28 that his team is developing capabilities to fight in cyberspace, American Forces Press Service reported. A defensible network is a high priority.

"Today we are … working with a series of networks in which redundancy, resiliency and defensibility were never core design characteristics," said Rogers, who is also director of the National Security Agency and chief of Central Security. "We often treat defensive capability as something that is literally bolted onto a system after we've done everything else."

Implications for the public sector

Public sector organizations must assess their vulnerabilities to not only external threats, but potentially more damaging insider threats.

Finding the technology to guard against threats is not just a federal problem. Major metropolitan police departments from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis to Seattle are all trying to figure out how to ensure sensitive information doesn't get into the wrong hands. Such breaches make the job of local law enforcement even more difficult. In response to a recent leak in Berkeley, Calif., the Daily Californian on May 29 quoted police officer David Bartalini as saying "unfortunately, with the leak, trust is at an all-time low."

Michael Morell, the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the CIA, recently said, "Cyber espionage, cyber crime, and cyber warfare are by far the fastest growing threats to our country's economic and national security." Morell recently joined the Advisory Board at SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), which is adapting the same powerful software used on Wall Street to detect stock market fraud to help speed the detection of and response to cyber threats.

Solutions to get in front of the threat

The scale of security needs faced by federal agencies and local police departments may be different. But the threats — and solutions — are the same.

Organizations can arm themselves with technologies such as encryption, authentication, authorization, auditing and insider-threat detection to safeguard confidential information. SAP NS2 offers security solutions that protect the availability, integrity and confidentiality of data, and which employ high-powered data analytics to detect and automate the response to insider threats.

Real-time data platforms founded on in-memory computing like SAP NS2's HANA solution, can fuse and analyze data from multiple sources in seconds, not hours or days. With SAP HANA, government agencies could identify anomalies worth investigating and enforce policies that otherwise might slip through the cracks of human error. This kind of technology can analyze IT users' behavioral data at lighting speed and help plug leaks before they happen. It can also allow leaders to take defensive measures quickly, as situations unfold, rather than react later to damage that has already occurred.

As rogue actors continue to harvest information that doesn't belong to them, the need to keep a tight lid on important data has never been more important. The time for public sector organizations to invest in multi-platform security technologies is now.